Forbidden Fruit: Military and Politics in Pakistan (and beyond)

From Dr Hamid Hussain

While browsing through some old material, found an old piece written in 2003 when General Pervez Mussharraf had just completed the political engineering project. It is lengthy and indulges in some theories but gives some context to what is happening now. While pondering over it, I found words of Amjad Islam Amjad as best description;

Hum loog;

dairoon mein chalte hein

dairoon mein chalnen se

daire to barhtey hein

fasley nahin ghatey

aarzoen chalti hein

jis taraf ko jate hein

manzilein tammana ki

saath saath chalti hein

gard urhti rehti hey

dard barhta rehta hey

rastey nahin ghatey

subhe dam sitaroon ki

tez jhilmilahat ko

roshni ki amad ka

pesh baab kehtey hein

ik kiran jo milti hey

aftab kehte hein

daira badalne ko

inqilab kehtey hein

Enjoy if you have some extra time on hand.

Hamid

Forbidden Fruit – Military & Politics

Hamid Hussain

2003

Introduction

Politics and profession of soldiering has nothing in common. They are totally different but essential elements of any society. Politicians and soldiers have an interesting relationship in all societies. In societies where civilians are in control, military officers act in accepted boundaries though ready to defend their turf against civilian encroachment. In societies where political institutions are weak and there is lack of consensus on legitimate course of succession, soldiers gradually expand their area of influence. They gradually restrict the role of civilians in various areas and sometimes directly take over the state replacing the civilians. This generally accepted model does not mean that military as an institution has no relevance to the important policy decisions. Even in countries where the tradition of civilian supremacy is well established, military has a political role relating to national security, albeit a different one. One commentator has correctly pointed that “the military’s political role is a question not of whether but of how much and what kind”. [1]

This article will evaluate soldier’s attitude towards political activity and how it develops. This will be followed by the details of Pakistani experience of politicization of officer’s corps and how repeated and prolonged military rules have militarized the politics. In the end, the complex relationship between soldiers and politicians will be summarized. Continue reading “Forbidden Fruit: Military and Politics in Pakistan (and beyond)”

Avtar Singh Khalsa: Lion of Afghanistan

In this Thursday, June 7, 2018 photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh and longtime leader of the community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, holds a meeting in his office, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

The Lion of Afghanistan, Avtar Singh Khalsa, serves as a representative in the Afghan Parliament. This Afghan hero fought for ten years in the ANA (Afghan National Army) and is reaching out with love and heart to the Taliban to negotiate peace; but willing to fight if Taliban refuses: “I sacrifice myself for those of my brothers who have been through all kinds of pain and suffering,” he said. “I don’t care if I lose my whole family and I get killed for this cause. I will struggle until I get their rights.”

In this Thursday, June 7, 2018 photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh and longtime leader of the community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, studies with his grandchildren at home, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

In this Thursday, June 7, 2018 photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a longtime leader of the Sikh community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, prays, inside a colorfully decorated gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

In this May 30, 2018, photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh and longtime leader of the community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, gives an interview to the Associated Press, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

In this Thursday, June 7, 2018 photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a Sikh and longtime leader of the community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, stands in front of a display of photographs at home, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

“The 52-year-old father of four, originally from the eastern Paktia province, has lived most of his life in Kabul . . . “I don’t only want to serve my Sikh and Hindu brothers. I have to be able to serve all the Afghan people, no matter which ethnicity or group they belong to. Our services must reach everyone,””

In this Thursday, June 7, 2018 photo, Avtar Singh Khalsa, a longtime leader of the Sikh community, who will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, leaves a gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, after praying, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict.

Please visit Avtar Singh Khalsa’s Gurudwara in Kabul on your next visit!

Continue reading “Avtar Singh Khalsa: Lion of Afghanistan”

Political Engineering in Pakistan Part II

From Dr Hamid Hussain.

June 12, 2018

Following piece is mainly the result of questions form non-Pakistanis to explain the context.  It may not be very interesting for Pakistanis as they are already well informed and it seems lengthy and a bit boring.  The noise is at a very high pitch making reasonable discourse very hard.  Reminds me tenth century Arab poet Mutanabbi’s words, “With so much noise, you need ten fingers to plug your ears”.   

 Summary could be single sentence quotes;

Political Leaders: Reminds me Liddelhart’s words “The prophets must be stoned; That is their lot, and the test of their fulfillment.  But a leader who is stoned may merely prove that he has failed in his function through a deficiency of wisdom, or through confusing his function with that of a prophet”.

Generals: The Times, April 6, 1961 issue statement that “it is difficult to envisage some thirty or forty generals and a smaller number of admirals and air force commanders appointed solely by Providence to be the sole judges of what the nation needs”.

Judiciary: Jorge Ubico of Guatemala’s words that “My justice is God’s”.

Enjoy.

Hamid

Political Engineering – Modus Operandi

Hamid Hussain

“The establishments in the US, Pakistan and India are usually working for their own good rather than for the good of their public.  Shaking them might not be a bad idea”.  Former Director General of Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General (R) Asad Durrani quoted in Spy Chronicles

Pakistanis will be voting for general elections on 25 July 2018.  Events of the last one year have raised many questions about the process. The gulf between important institutions is widening by the day.  Attitudes have hardened and everyone is rallying behind their respective wagons.  Pakistan’s power stool is three-legged and at one time known as ‘troika’.  In the past, President, Prime Minister and Chief of Army of Staff were the three legs of this stool.  Change of President to a ceremonial role by taking most of his powers removed this leg. In due course, this leg was replaced by Judiciary. The three legs are uneven with executive as shortest, followed in size by Judiciary and then army.  There is an inherent element of instability in this arrangement.   Continue reading “Political Engineering in Pakistan Part II”

Book Review: Ye Khamoshi Kahan Tak (Silent no more?) by Lt Gen (Rtd) Shahid Aziz

The late great Asma Jahangir once described Pakistan’s generals as ‘duffers’ on national TV. While it would be disingenuous to generalize a whole group as duffers, one can infer that within a strictly hierarchical structure as the army, loyalty to the force and to the commanders is considered a greater asset than intelligence or aptitude. A better experiment would be to take a look at the books written by various retired generals through the decades and reach a conclusion. It can also help us understand what type of characters are highly valued by the institution and thus given promotions. Many of the earliest officers in Pakistan Army wrote their memoirs including (but not limited to) General Ayub, General Sher Ali Khan, Air Marshal Asghar Khan and General Gul Hasan.  General Sher Ali Khan was an ‘ideologue’ of the elusive ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ while Ayub Khan and Asghar Khan had slightly more pragmatist views in that regard. Lt Gen Shahid Aziz belonged to the former category. According to his account, he was an honest officer who always put the interest of institution before any other interests.

He described himself in the following words in his book:

“Why am I full of contradiction? Why can’t I be balanced? Then I console myself with the thought that a pendulum has a balance too; what use is a balance that is static and frozen? Real balance is in movement. One should be flying back and forth on a swing.” (Translation: Khaled Ahmad)

Reading the book, one gets the impression that he was slightly more PakNationalist than the average military Joe and his levels of self-righteousness were high enough to prompt him writing that book. He knew exactly what he was doing and was a man of his (however flawed) convictions. He was the kind of guy who refused to vote for Zia in the sham referendum held in 1984, despite being asked by his superiors in the military, the type of officer who wouldn’t display a star and Pakistan’s flag on his staff car.  Musharraf obviously was wily enough to see through Shahid Aziz’s simplistic stupidity and didn’t promote him as the Vice-Chief of Army Staff. You can see his cognitive dissonance in the book that he has no shame (or self-awareness) appropriating Faiz’s work (the book is littered with poems by Faiz and Ahmad Faraz, both of whom were harsh critics of despotism and military rule in Pakistan and left the country rather than stay under a military dictatorship).

I think he’s the ultimate Nasim Hijazi character (Man on a white horse), someone who imbibed the whole PakNationalist Muslim narrative and decided to live accordingly. By PakNationalist Muslim narrative, I mean believing wholeheartedly in the ‘Two Nation Theory’, believing in conspiracy theories that the US-Israel-India nexus is constantly working to undermine the sovereignty of Pakistani state, holding the military at a higher pedestal than politicians and believing that Pakistani Islam is supposed to save the rest of Muslim world. Throughout the book, he refers to Taliban (of any variety) as ‘Mujahideen’, without any shame or remorse. His view about Pakistani Taliban (TTP) is the following:

“The bombs that kill innocent Pakistanis in bazaars and mosques are planted by friends of America, and this terrorism is done to persuade Pakistan to embrace America more closely, allow the government to pursue pro-America policies, and to alienate Pakistan from the mujahideen. But this trend of support to the killers of Muslims is an open rebellion against Allah.”

In the book, he mentioned two instances during his training in the US when he was approached by people who wanted him to leave Pakistan army and join the US army in the same position that he held in Pakistan. This sounds preposterous because you need to be a green-card holder or a national to enlist as an officer and you can’t be inducted straight as a commanding officer.

One of the more interesting (but not completely unsurprising) aspects of his book was the discussion of nepotism and corruption within the ranks of the army (especially corruption during weapons procurement and the way DHA scams people). Such things, if ever pointed out by civilians, would constitute heresy and treason. Another aspect that intrigued me was his criticism of war tactics during 1971 (he fought along the Kashmir border) and during Kargil (when he was part of ISI).

The most useful part of the book is when he discusses his role as a first-hand observer of Musharraf’s coup and its aftermath. He was also part of the team that selected people for running different ministries under Musharraf and he spilled the beans on how Ministers of Finance, Commerce, Trade, Industry, and Petroleum were ‘pre-selected’ and Shaukat Aziz never even appeared before the interview panel. He was initially optimistic about the monitoring mechanism put in place to hold the relevant ministers accountable but things didn’t work as smoothly or ideally as he wished. He laid the blame squarely at Bureaucracy’s feet.

His thoughts post-9/11 were:
“After 9/11 the bitter reality of a unipolar world was exposed. This incident happened under suspicious circumstances. A lot of American experts claim that this incident was orchestrated by American Intelligence Agencies and Jewish terrorists”.

He was bitter about the fact that Musharraf allowed US forces to use some of our Airbases (Shamsi, Zhob, Dalbandin, Jacobabad). He also mentioned how Indians sneaked into Afghanistan right after the organisedUS-led operation and took over TV stations in Kabul. According to his account, American forces didn’t keep Pakistan informed regarding their hunt for Al-Qaeda militants and knowingly pushed then towards Pakistan. About the first encounters between SSG unit and Al-Qaeda militants, he was full of praise for the militants and commented: ‘how can you compare a salaried individual with a guy who is looking to be martyred?’

Regarding the Indian Parliament attack in December 2001, he had this to say: “After The Delhi bomb attacks, Pakistan was accused in the world as a terrorist haven. This was a ridiculous claim. By that time, Pakistan had ceased help to Kashmiri Mujahideen. ISI was strictly acting upon the new policy. Obviously, Kashmiri Mujahideen were not an organized group, they were nothing more than a ragtag army who were fighting in the way of Allah, not listening to anyone. However, the government wasn’t involved.”

There were tensions within the top brass in 2002-03, which have been highlighted by the author. There were turf disputes between ISI and Army, involving some captured Al-Qaeda militants, close coordination between Army and CENTCOM,  and development of a Quick Response Force and a Special Operation Task Force within SSG. There were two assassination attempts on Musharraf in the period 2003-4 which were orchestrated by people within the military.  He, however, voted for Musharraf in the 2001 Referendum. (Just an aside, I was an ‘observer’ for the Referendum near a village in Mansehra and saw how people brought NICs of dead people to the voting station so that those people’s vote could be counted).

His reflections on becoming CGS (Chief of General Staff):
“My tenure as CGS was really hard for me. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. In Afghanistan, we collaborated with the U.S. while waving the flag of non-partisanship and were equally responsible for massacre of fellow muslims, a dictator who came to the fore promising change became President for five years based on a sham election, Incapable and corrupt politicians were promoted by the army to run the country, compromises were made on Kashmir under American pressure, separatism in Balochistan was promoted, commercial TV channels were allowed to manipulate our nation’s narrative, ‘Pakistan First’ was used as a slogan and there were efforts to reform Islam under the auspices of ‘Enlightened Moderation’. He argued with Musharraf in favor of keeping the Kashmiri ‘Mujahideen’ as proxies against India.

He rails against both secular people and religious people because they don’t follow what he thinks is the righteous path. According to his plan, religious education in regular schools should be updated and secular education in religious schools should be updated so that in a decade, students of both systems are on par with each other. He sparred with Musharraf and his friends over this at dinner parties. The more alarming insight from the book is that such view and such officers were popular in the army. He also had a romantic view of the ascetic life, free of the burdens of money, job and retirement.

American Caste

Our featured post modernist scholar Daria Roithmayr appears to believes that America has four castes: caucasions, latinos, blacks, asians; and emphasizes the importance of caste (which she calls “race”) over class in understanding how the world works and changing societal socio-economic outcomes. And our featured hero, leader of the intellectual dark web, global respected elder, and leading global intellectual Glenn Loury believes in emphasizing class over caste. I am 200% with my hero Glenn Loury on emphasizing class over caste.

Discussions at Brown Pundits seem to be overrun with discussions on caste that I don’t fully understand. The parallels of caste in the muslim world (various different sects of Islam), Arya societies (Iran, Hindu Jain Buddhist influenced societies) and America are uncannily similar. Perhaps a discussion of American caste might help lower extreme passions and facilitate a more productive discussion of caste in muslim societies and Arya influenced societies.

Start watching 35 minutes in if interested.

Daria Roithmayr believes that due to a series of historical events humans are not born with the same social capital. This inequality in social capital is inherited across generations and she believes drives differences in average socio-economic outcomes between America’s four castes. The way she believes social capital in inherited across generations is:

  1. Inter-generational wealth transfer from parents to children [I think this is easily overcome]
  2. Rich kids go to better public schools funded by high property tax revenues [I don’t think school funding matters as much as she does. Expensive versus cheaper public schools matter far less than the power of “good company”, or the effect of kids being surrounded by other amazing kids.]
  3. Social networks [this or the power of “good company” is even more important and valuable than she thinks]
  4. Leadership of or influence on social networks [I don’t think I understand this point]

Daria Roithmayr is right that social capital advantage is inherited across generations. My belief is the way social capital transfers across generations is through affecting four types of privilege:

  1. Physical health [Sharira Siddhi in Sanskrit]
  2. Mental health [Chitta Shuddhi in Sanskrit]
  3. Intelligence [Buddhi in Sanskrit] {Intelligence is affected by physical and mental health as well as by meditation in eastern philosophy}
  4. Good company [This is the least important of the four and primarily works via the influence good company has on physical and mental health and intelligence. There is an eastern saying: “tell me your company and I will tell you who you are”. Social networks or what Glenn Loury calls “relations over transactions” is part of “good company”.]

The other issues Daria is discussing has a far smaller effect on inter-generational social capital transfer than these four.

Review: The Spy Chronicles

This is a review of “The Spy Chronicles” (not by me, but by our regular contributor Dr Hamid Hussain), a recent book co-authored by two former chiefs of ISI (the Pakistani intelligence agency) and RAW (the Indian intelligence agency). The book has generated some controversy (a lot of it far-fetched and irrational) and the Pakistani author (Retired General Asad Durrani) has been called to GHQ to provide an explanation and has been barred from leaving the country until an enquiry (conducted by a 3 star general) has been conducted.

The review is by Dr Hamid Hussain.

The full title is: Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace. A. S. Dulat, Assad Durrani and Aditya Sinha (Delhi: Harper Collins), 2018.

This book is neither a memoir nor an organized attempt to explain a theory. It is essentially a transcript of conversations. It covers India Pakistan relations, Kashmir, Afghanistan and other general regional and international topics. Two informed individuals from rival countries engaged in a candid conversation and some of their views are not fully in line with the official stance of their respective countries.
In view of unresolved issues between India and Pakistan, there have been several international attempts to bring high former officials of both countries together for dialogue. One effort was to bring former intelligence officials of both countries together. This effort called ‘Intel Dialogue’ was organized by the University of Ottawa. Dulat and Durrani met each other during these ‘Track II’ efforts and developed a kind of friendship. Continue reading “Review: The Spy Chronicles”

Political Engineering in Pakistan. The Military View

From our regular contributor, Dr Hamid Hussain

Following piece about recent clouds on Pakistan’s scene was mainly for non-Pakistani audience as many questions/confusions came my way. 

 This is an attempt to understand the view from barracks although I strongly oppose such moves from military.  This is first of two part. Second part will deal with modus operandi.

 Hamid

Political Engineering – View from the Barracks

Hamid Hussain

In July 2017, disqualification of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif by Supreme Court again opened the debate about the role of country’s powerful army.  This was one of the most politicized decision of country’s Supreme Court.  In April 2017, Supreme Court not only ordered formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) but went ahead and nominated its members.  It included a serving Brigadier Kamran Khurshid of Military Intelligence (MI) and a retired Brigadier Nauman Saeed of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Supreme Court disqualified Sharif based on JIT investigation.  In the aftermath of Sharif disqualification, many political changes including change of provincial government in Baluchistan achieved by defection of several members, defeat of government’s nominee for Senate chairman position and defection of many politicians from ruling political party Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) to rival Pakistan Terek-e-Insaaf (PTI) were alleged to be orchestrated by the army brass.

Continue reading “Political Engineering in Pakistan. The Military View”

Kargil War

This topic comes up every once in a while on twitter, so I am reposting an old post with a few new links and videos added at the end.. The main point is simple: Musharraf and a few of his cronies (Javed Hasan, General Aziz, General Mahmood), without having thought it through, conducted a foolish operation in Kargil that cost hundreds of lives on both sides and set back (perhaps destroyed forever) the chances of peace between India and Pakistan (set in motion by Vajpayee’s historic bus journey to Lahore). The operation was not only a strategic disaster, it was a tactical disaster..

First, some links with details about the operations: Continue reading “Kargil War”

For “Strategic Reasons”, Did Britain Want Pakistan in 1947?

I got these via an email from an author who apparently wishes to remain anonymous. Since any post about partition gets a lively debate going, I though I would put these up (again, I did not write these points, I am just the messenger 🙂 ):

Continue reading “For “Strategic Reasons”, Did Britain Want Pakistan in 1947?”

Pressure on Social Media in Pakistan

A recent BBC report discussed how contractors employed by ISPR (Inter-Services Public Relations, the media arm of the Pakistani armed forces) monitor and harass people who are perceived as being disloyal or anti-military. Today I saw an email from a friend who is a very patriotic Pakistani with mainstream (pro-democracy) views, who was just kicked out of an “elite” Whatsapp group because the group admin was under pressure from “sources”. I am excerpting the relevant part of the email here with his identity removed; to me the interesting part is that this is a relatively small group of people, and they are not Left wing activists or ethnic nationalists or starry eyed peaceniks, they are mostly bankers and Westernized members of the elite, deeply committed to Pakistan and the idea of Pakistan.. that someone was looking at them and making specific requests to remove members is a new and rather extreme step in the spread of XiJinping thought in Pakistan..

“Yesterday, this member-moderator along with two others became its victims when we were unceremoniously removed from a so-called “prestigious” WhatsApp group of “who’s who” by its moderator without notice or assigning any reason. Our sin? Arguing against the Miltablishment’s policies in the context of Nawaz Sharif’s interview. One member out of 250 in this WhatsApp group took a principled stand by voluntarily opting out in our support. Some other members I understand are writing in our defense. Surprisingly, those Miltablishment supporters who had initiated the debate on this issue (Nawaz Sharif’s interview) and had used the filthiest and most polarizing of languages against the group’s stated policy were neither touched nor even reprimanded.

The moderator of this WhatsApp group subsequently and reportedly explained to someone that “continuous bashing of military (sic)….was landing the group in trouble” and that “he was under pressure from some quarters” to take action (remove the members) – this could be a reference to outside monitors (intelligence agencies) or inside die-hard supporters of Miltablishment. Either way, the thought-police is out in full force. If a WhatsApp group of 250 is monitored, the power of the Miltablishment is complete and total.

Having come back to the country after X-years, I have been incredibly saddened and depressed at the strident polarization one is a witness to. No one is listening to the other side and temperatures are as high as I clearly remember they were at the time of military action in Bangladesh in 1971, when a brother was pitted against a brother..”

An extract from the BBC report (which is worth reading in its entirety):

By establishing the email address associated with the metadata of the document, Amnesty researchers traced it to an Islamabad-based cyber security expert, Zahid Abbasi.

When confronted by the BBC, Mr Abbasi confirmed he had previously worked for a year for the Pakistani military’s public relations team (ISPR) and that the document was genuine.

He admitted his role included tracing the IP addresses of “people abusing institutions” online and “compromising their accounts” by, for example, sending them fake Facebook login pages.